Unless you’re an old pro, thinking about getting your girls through the cold winter can be stressful. Are they warm enough, is their water going to freeze overnight, are they going to lay eggs? It may seem like a big ordeal, but paying attention to a few details can really help your success in keeping your laying hens happy all winter long.
Hens like to roost while they sleep – huddling next to each other helps share body heat and keep them toasty warm. Just make sure they have enough room to fluff out their feathers, about 6-8″. And if you’d like to add a little extra something for those especially cold winter nights, we have adjustable heated roosts to help you out.
2. Heated Water
This is so important. Their water doesn’t have to be hot, but warm enough to beat out the frost. We sell submergiable water heaters and heater bases that sit under galvanized chicken waterers.
A hen’s laying is influenced by her pineal gland, which is regulated by sunlight. If you’d like your girls to lay throughout the winter, the most important thing you can do is supplement light. Place 1 or 2 60-watt incandescent light bulbs on a timer in their coops to give them 16 hours of daylight each day.
If you don’t need the eggs, don’t add light. Hens naturally take the winter off from laying to divert energy into maintaining body heat, molting and growing new feathers, and resting from a season of hard work. Let their bodies adjust to natural daylight hours they’ll be happy as can be.
4. Deep Litter
This method is low-maintenance and actively warms your hens as the litter slowly composts and releases heat into the winter coop. Start with a clean coop, and add 4″ of litter (you can choose from straw, hay, shavings, or whatever you typically use). Add more as needed to keep the coop clean and dry. By mid-winter your litter should be 8-10″ deep and toasty warm. Tossing a handful of corn in will encourage your hens to scratch and peck, which will help turn and aerate the litter. You can always give a hand every once in a while and give it a turn with a pitchfork as well.
5. Warming Treats
What you feed your girls makes a big difference. Some foods add a nice heat to their bodies while they sleep, while others don’t. For a good warm boost, give them some cracked corn as an evening snack – it keeps their digestive tracts active throughout the night. Warm oatmeal is also a great addition, or try adding some hot water to their regular feed for a nice warm treat before bed.
It may seem like work at first, but keeping your girls happy through winter is fairly simple. Keep them warm, clean and dry. Give them some treats to peck at and they’ll be just fine. Whether you want to keep them laying or give them the winter to recoup, this winter checklist will let you rest assured your girls are well taken care of.